With the passage of the defense appropriations bill by the United States Senate, $3.5 million will be appropriated for the UT SimCenter at Chattanooga to house and test a powerful new fuel cell that would provide the energy needs of a 30,000 square foot building or supermarket. The U.S. House has passed the bill.
Congressman Zach Wamp stressed the regional, national and global significance of the UTC SimCenter’s ongoing research. Since January, 2006, the SimCenter has housed and tested a 5-killowatt fuel cell for the former Ion America. The unit could supply the energy needs of a 5,000 square foot home, including heating, cooling, and providing hydrogen to fuel an automobile. No connection to an energy grid is required.
“It is a real pleasure for me to see this unit still running,” said Dr. K. R. Sridhar, former president of Ion America, now with Bloom Energy Corp. Sridhar said what we do not hear and see coming from the fuel cell is what is most important—no noise and no smoke. “With energy resources being very scarce, we must know how to bring efficiency at every step. The leaders in energy will also be the leaders in economic development.”
With approval from the Senate, and authorization from the Department of Energy, a 100- kilowatt fuel cell would be built by Bloom Energy in 12-15 months. The hope, according to Wamp, is for the fuel cells to eventually be mass manufactured in the Chattanooga region. Acknowledging the expense involved for the consumer to incorporate green products into the home or workplace, Sridhar says the fuel cell and other new technologies are not viable until they are cost effective. “There does not need to be a conflict between the conscience and the wallet,” he said.
Modine Manufacturing Company, a thermal management company that designs, engineers, tests, and manufactures heat transfer products for a wide range of applications and markets, has been involved in discussion of the proposed mass manufacture of fuel cells. David B. Rayburn, Modine President and Chief Executive Officer, said the company believes in the future of fuel cells, and that the company has spent $82 million in research and development with an eye toward mass marketing these products.
l-r: Dr. David L. Whitfield, Director, Graduate School of Computational Engineering;
Congressman Zach Wamp; David B. Rayburn, President and Chief Executive Officer
of Modine; Wayne Cropp, Chattanooga’s Enterprise Center; Dr. K. R. Sridhar, Bloom
Energy Corp.; Chancellor Roger Brown.